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What is Lupus by Elizabeth Knight

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Lupus is a chronic autoimmune inflammatory disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs.  Chronic means that the signs and symptoms usually last longer than six weeks, and can continue for many years.  The symptoms can have such a long duration because with lupus the immune system cannot tell a difference between good and bad, and destroys the healthy tissues and cells along with the bad.  The attacking of the immune system can cause swelling, pain, and damage throughout the entire body.  Lupus can affect a person’s skin, joints, kidneys, blood cells, organs, and more.

Lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus,  (SLE), is the most common type of lupus.  With lupus disease, something is wrong with the person’s immune system.  It has a broad range of symptoms, and can infect anyone.  Lupus disease can range from mild to life threatening.  Lupus is not contagious, and cannot be spread from one person to another through any means. Lupus can affect any organ or part of the body, but for most people, it typically affects only a few certain body parts.  More symptoms can develop as the disease progresses, and the disease requires continuous monitoring.

Anyone can get lupus.  However, Lupus is most commonly found in women ages 15-45.  More than ninety percent of people with lupus are women, in particular African-American, Latina, Asian, and Native American women.  White women have a slightly smaller risk than other races.  Men can also have lupus disease, but are more likely to get it before puberty or after age fifty.  However, for both men and women, the disease can happen at any stage of life, wether it be in childhood or elderly life.

However, because the symptoms tend to come and go, lupus can be extremely hard to diagnose.  Some symptoms of lupus can falsely appear to be that of another disease.  Lupus is a very complex, complicated disease, and there is not a definite test to prove that a person really has lupus. So, sometimes a person with lupus is never diagnosed.  Because of this, it is hard to determine the number of people in the U.S.  who have lupus.  The Lupus Foundation of America has a rough estimate of about 16,000 cases each year.  Research estimates that there are over 1.5 million Americans who have Lupus disease, and over 5 million people living all throughout the world are suffering with Lupus.

Unfortunately, the cause of lupus still remains unknown.  Researchers are looking at many factors.  One of these factors is the environment; sunlight, viruses, stress, and more.  Another factor includes hormones, especially estrogen as lupus is more common in women during their child birthing years.  It is also known that genes can play a role in lupus.  There is currently no cure for lupus.  A person who has lupus should always see a doctor for treatments.  Treatments can keep symptoms under control.  Lupus can be a fatal disease, but if it is treated properly and attentively the prognosis is better than ever.  Thanks to medical science, today a person with lupus can expect to live a normal lifespan, as long at they follow doctors instruction and take their medication.  New research is currently and continually being done, and there is hope in the future for finding a cure.

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